The Pennsylvania Teaching and Certification Resource
There are several routes to earn Pennsylvania teacher certification based on the candidate’s previous experience and education. The Pennsylvania State Department of Education Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality oversees the certification process, which is outlined in detail below.
How to Become a Teacher in Pennsylvania
In order to earn Pennsylvania teacher certification, applicants must meet certain education and testing requirements. All candidates for certification are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and must attend a teacher education program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. You can view a list of approved teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania on the state Department of Education website. Those who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree but have not completed an approved teacher preparation program may wish to review our guide to alternative teacher certification in Pennsylvania.
Candidates for teacher certification in Pennsylvania following the traditional route to licensure must decide on the type of teaching certificate and subject area they plan to teach before applying for certification. All candidates must pass the same battery of exams appropriate to the subject(s) and grade level(s) to be taught before a certificate is issued. These exams are discussed in further detail below.
- I want to be a teacher in Pennsylvania, but don’t have a degree: Earn an Education Degree
- I want to be a teacher and have a degree, but not in education: Learn about Pennsylvania’s Alternative Certification Process and Programs
- I have a teaching degree and am interested in more education: Learn about Master’s Degree Education Programs or Doctorate Education Programs and Information.
Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Pennsylvania
One of the most important steps towards Pennsylvania teacher certification is completing a teacher education program approved by the Department of Education that also holds regional accreditation. There are six regional accreditation agencies overseen by the US Department of Education. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is responsible for accrediting Pennsylvania schools. Aspiring teachers looking to work in the state must confirm that their school of choice is MSCHE-accredited and holds Department of Education approval. Otherwise, they may not be eligible for Pennsylvania certification. Additionally, applicants who are considering online teaching preparation or teaching preparation through an out-of-state school must confirm that the school offering the program is accredited by the corresponding regional accreditation body.
In addition to a regional accreditation, most schools that offer Pennsylvania teacher preparation programs will apply for accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness (CAEP). The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparedness was formed through the merger of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC). CAEP accreditation is held as a distinguished marker of rigorous standards within the teacher education sector.
See our list of CAEP accredited schools in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry projects 285 average annual new job opportunities in addition to 1,189 annual replacement openings for elementary school teachers, 123 average annual new job opportunities in addition to 447 annual replacement openings for middle school teachers, and 1,329 average annual replacement openings for secondary school teachers in Pennsylvania through 2022.3 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in Pennsylvania at 130,290, excluding special education.4 Elementary school teachers in the state make an average annual salary of $60,580, while middle school teachers make an annual average of $58,620 and secondary school teachers an annual average of $62,130.4 For additional information regarding employment opportunities and education policy, visit the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Pennsylvania Teacher Education Requirements
Individuals pursuing Pennsylvania teacher licensing must complete an approved teacher education program resulting in a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which should include a recommendation from the institution attended for a teaching certificate. The institutional recommendation verifies to the Department of Education that the applicant has completed state-mandated requirements for coursework in core subjects including mathematics, English, ESL education, and teaching skills, as well as a teaching internship.
Candidates for a teaching license who have a bachelor’s degree or higher in an endorsed content area who have not completed a traditional teacher preparation program may be eligible for a Pennsylvania teaching certificate through alternative certification.
Pennsylvania Teacher Testing Requirements
Pennsylvania requires that all individuals seeking initial educator certification at the bachelor’s degree level take and pass basic skills tests as well as subject-area expertise exams in the content area they wish to teach. Candidates who are beginning approved teacher preparation programs after August 1, 2015 will typically take the first set of exams prior to admittance to a program. The first set of required exams include the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA) modules and the Core Academic Skills for Educators (CORE) modules, which measure knowledge in reading, writing, and mathematics. Next, candidates must take and pass the proper Fundamental Subjects Content Knowledge exams for the subject(s) to be taught, as well as the pedagogy (teaching skills) exam modules for the grade levels to be taught.
Educational Specialists who are already licensed in another area such as school psychology or nursing are exempt from the testing requirements. Those who are seeking certification as vocational or career and technical educators must take the Occupational Competency Assessment (OCA) and the vocational Basic Skills Assessments.
Additional Teacher Certification Requirements
Pennsylvania law requires all applicants for employment in public and private schools to undergo background checks. All teaching applicants must submit a fingerprint-based state and federal background check before applying for Pennsylvania educator certification. The process is started by registering through the web-based application Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH).
Pennsylvania Teaching License Application Process
Once all of the above steps to Pennsylvania teacher certification have been completed, applicants can apply for licensure through the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). The following documentation must be provided:
- Verification of bachelor’s degree
- Verification of completion of an approved teacher education program
- Submission of passing test scores on all required exams
- Payment of non-refundable processing fees
Visit the state’s Department of Education for further details on teacher certification in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Teacher Salary and Jobs
|Type||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Preschool Teachers, Special Education||650||Not Available|
|Elementary School Teachers||55,300||$60,580|
|Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School||10,640||$60,930|
|Middle School Teachers||24,060||$58,620|
|Middle School Teachers, Special Education||3,720||$60,530|
|Secondary School Teachers||50,930||$62,130|
|Secondary School Teachers, Special Education||7,820||$62,650|
|Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education||620||$59,290|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.
Pennsylvania Teacher Interviews
Interview with Trish Nodolski, Pennsylvania Preschool Teacher and Program Director
Interview with Lisa Butler, Pennsylvania Middle School Spanish Teacher
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Teacher in Pennsylvania
Question: How do I become a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania?
Answer: To be a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania, you must have a bachelor’s degree. With a degree, you can substitute for up to 20 days in one position. To work for longer than 20 days in the same position, you must obtain an emergency permit through the Pennsylvania Department of Education or have state certification. Note that most school districts prefer substitutes who have an active teaching license.
Question: How do I become an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania?
Answer: To be an elementary teacher in Pennsylvania, you must earn a certificate in elementary education through the state. This requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree and complete a teacher preparation program. A student teaching experience is also required, as are passing scores on the state’s certification exams.
Question: What are the requirements to become a high school teacher in Pennsylvania?
Answer: To become a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, you must be granted a secondary education certificate. This requires that you have a bachelor’s degree and take appropriate education coursework, which includes earning student teaching experience in a secondary classroom. You must also pass the required teacher certification exams.
Teaching and Education Programs
1. Pennsylvania State Department of Education Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality: http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx#.VjJWMLerTcs
2. US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html
3. Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Center for Workforce Information & Analysis: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=814813&mode=2
4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Secondary School Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Preschool Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252011.htm
9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Preschool: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252051.htm
10. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Kindergarten Teachers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252012.htm
11. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252052.htm
12. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252053.htm
13. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252023.htm
14. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Special Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252054.htm
15. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252032.htm